Some people say your couch is the center of your home. It’s the place we land after a long day, where we spend time with our families and kids in our living rooms, watch Netflix, or huddle around for the big game. It’s a center for entertainment.
But did you know that many of the materials used in your average couch are toxic? Today we’re going to explore several non-toxic couches that are a safer choice for your family.
Table of Contents
- The toxic chemicals in couches
- What to avoid when buying a couch
- What to look for in a non-toxic couch
- The best non-toxic couches
What are the Toxic Chemicals Used in Couches?
Toxins like VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and formaldehyde are added to furniture during the manufacturing process as a way for companies to increase profits at the expense of consumer health.
These volatile compounds are off-gassing into your home and are living in the air and dust, possibly making you sick, doing things like triggering asthma and allergies, causing skin rashes, and more.
They impact indoor air quality – which is what we breathe most of the time.
Did you know one of the most common toxins used in couches are flame retardant?
This started in 1975 when Technical Bulletin 117 (TB117) was introduced in California and required furniture manufacturers to treat products with fire retardants to prevent fires caused by cigarettes in homes across America. Because manufacturers in the furniture industry did not want to have to create multiple product lines, they began adding these toxic chemicals to all types of products.
Since then, research backs that flame retardants contain toxic chemicals that have been linked to cancer and neurological disorders.
You should know that one of the most commonly flame retardant chemicals is polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). Research shoes that exposure to PBDEs may lead to diabetes, liver problems, thyroid disease, or negative effects on the nervous, immune system, and reproductive systems.
Additionally, Triphenyl phosphate (TPHP or TPP) and hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) are also common flame retardants that have negative health effects on the body. Flame retardants were introduced to slow the spread of fire, not prevent it.
So truly all they do is poison our bodies as we sit on the couch to watch TV or gather as a family.
Other toxins can also be found in the foam or fabric of couches as well as in the glues and stains. Other toxins that may be present include formaldehyde, benzene, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and phthalates.
As couches break down from use, it can increase the release of these toxic compounds. Many toxins bioaccumulate, which means they build up in your body over time.
The best thing we can do is limit our exposure to these toxins. Choosing a couch without these chemicals can help reduce your cancer risk as well as your carbon footprint.
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What to Avoid When Buying a Couch
Did you know that the regulation enforcing the use of flame retardants was recently updated (to TB117-2013). This new law makes it so that fewer flame retardants are allowed in furniture.
Some flame retardants can be safer but the ones to avoid at all costs are brominated flame retardants. Your best bet is to look for “flame retardant free” labels.
A few more things to keep in mind when looking for a non-toxic couch include:
- Be mindful of anti-microbial, stain-, and water-repelling treatments – those treatments do not break down and can have negative health effects
- Don’t buy vintage – it could contain lead or heavy metals
- Go with fabric options other than permanent press fabrics – these contain formaldehyde, a known carcinogen
- Avoid polyurethane foam – it is highly flammable and requires flame retardants to be used’
- Plant-based foams – This also doesn’t mean anything different from regular foams, they are just made with soy (oil)
- Synthetic fabrics – these types of fabrics are petroleum-based and are essentially made of plastic
- Stain-preventative fabrics – these are made with perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) that are linked to cancers, reproductive issues, immunue system issues, and neurotoxicity
- MDF/Particleboard/Plywood – these often use formaldehyde-based glues and are best avoided
What to Look for in a Non-Toxic Couch
Choosing a non-toxic couch is good way to reduce you and your families exposure to additional, unnecessary toxins.
Here are some things consider when buying a non-toxic couch:
- Read the labels – always read the fine print regarding flame retardants and chemical treatments.
- Pick natural fibers and organic fabrics – with cushion fillers like natural latex, cotton, wool, jute, and kapok and other organic materials. Natural materials that are untreated are a better option over synthetic fabrics.
- Go for recycled or up-cycled materials – particularly when it comes to synthetic materials.
- For a leather couch, stick to eco-leather – it avoids the use of toxic dyes and treatments. Avoid synthetic leather made from plastic and go for something made from cork, mushrooms, or pineapples.
- Choose a solid wood frame.
- Seek finishes made with low or zero VOC emissions – options include linseed oil, walnut oil, or hemp oil.
- Always ask questions – the best way to do is this is to chat with the customer service to get the exact materials used in production. And if they don’t answer your or give you the run-around, go with a different option that is transparent.
If you’re feeling stressed about where to start looking, here is a list of non-toxic couch brands that fit the bill.
The Best Non-Toxic Couches
Burrow – TOP PICK
Burrow specializes in both style and function with their luxury couches. They are known for their ability to be assembled and moved easily.
They can also be expanded with additional seating elements or accessories. Their furniture is modular in nature giving it flexibility over time as your style and couch needs change.
Their couches are made with up-cycled synthetic fibers that have no chemical coatings or treatments. They are made to be stain and scratch resistant making them ideal for families with kids and pets.
Burrow has a significant number of couch and sections options (the most of any on this non-toxic couches list). Their couches start at $1,300:
Medley Home – TOP PICK
Medley Home’s couches are handmade in California and offer a comfortable support that features a locally-sourced hardwood frame.
You can pick from materials including cozy wool, lush down and feathers, or resilient poly filling, natural and performance fabrics, and beautiful solid maple and walnut wood to complete your couch to your liking.
Medley Home uses no harsh chemicals or flame retardants and the materials they rely on include organic cotton certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard and OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 wool, with cushions made using CertiPUR-US®-certified foam or certified organic natural Dunlop latex.
The Medley Sofa is highly regarded to be a good choice for a non-toxic couch.
Medley home has 12 different couch options. They range in price from approximately $1,800 – $2,200.
Ecobalanza – TOP CUSTOM (But Expensive)
All of Ecobalanza’s couches are made by hand in Seattle with organic materials according to your specifications.
As a company they aim to make sustainable couches that are ethically made and a non-toxic choice for your home.
Their couches contains no chemical flame retardants, use zero-VOC wood stains and finishes, and FSC-certified hardwood. They take special care not to use any harmful chemicals or toxic materials.
Ecoblanza is made-to-order specially designed company. You pay a 50% deposit on your furniture before they even order any materials:
Maiden Home’s couches are handcrafted by local artisans in North Carolina. All of their furniture, including their non-toxic couches, are made without the use of flame retardants or formaldehyde. They make high quality upholstered furniture in the United States.
They used soy-based foam in their cushions that contains no ozone depleters, PBDEs, TDCPP, or TCEP flame retardants, mercury, lead, or formaldehyde. The wood and frames are made using responsibly sourced hardwoods, springs are made of recycled steel, and whenever possible water-based, low-VOC glues and stains are used. They have over 70 fabrics and leathers, four finishes, and eight sizes.
Maiden Home has 9 available couch options ranging in price from approximately $2,200 to $3,800.
Pure Upholstery creates beautiful couches using natural materials including natural latex, wool, solid hardwood, and cotton. They have a variety of couch options (including sleeper sofas).
They use GOLS Certified Organic Latex that is chemical flame retardant free in their cushions and to wrap their solid hardwood frames. All of their fabrics are either Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified, Oeko-tex 100 and/or EU Ecolabel certified.
They also use no topical treatments and flame retardants in their couches. They use a Greenguard Gold certified adhesive when necessary.
Their couches start at around $1,700.
Sabai is passionate about protecting the environment and specializes in non-toxic couches. They are made High Point, North Carolina from CertiPUR-US®-certified foam that contains no flame retardants or formaldehyde.
They use recycled velvet and up-cycled untreated poly. Their couch frames are built from FSC-certified wood, that use a low VOC stain, and they do not use any glues in their couches. They are great for small spaces too as they come in a larger and smaller size.
They are thoughtful of their production process to reduce their carbon footprint as well.
The Essential Sofa from Sabai is an affordable non-toxic couch option at $1,300 with 8 fabric options and two wood finishes to pick from.
Editor’s note: After having sat on a Sabai couch myself, I would not pick this if you have back problems or require a comfortable seat. Their couches are quite stiff in my opinion and have a short back.
You can save $50 on your Sabai purchase with code GENTWENTY50.
Savvy Rest specialized in organic sofas and organic bedding. Described as “organic luxury for your living room” their couches are made using solid hardwood, organic hemp and cotton fabrics, jute webbing, and pure natural latex foam.
Made in Virginia, their couches have no flame retardants, plywood, glues, particleboard, formaldehyde, or polyester and their finishes are zero-VOC.
They use certified sustainable solid hardwood (maple), GOTS-certified organic upholstery (hemp, cotton duck, hemp-cotton blend), Cradle-to-Cradle certified Natural Talalay latex foam, and certified organic wool batting to create their couch.
They have two different couch options available that come in variety of fabrics and finishes.
Couch Seattle is a Seattle-based brand that has their couches handmade in Los Angeles.
They offer custom, made to order furniture – and can even create your dream couch from your own drawing! You can pick your style and size and the customization options only begin there!
You can select materials like latex, wool, organic cotton, or linen and choose your own stains and woods to ensure a no or low VOC couch that is also flame retardant free.
If you’re looking for a new sofa or new couch, I hope this guide to non-toxic couches was helpful for you on your journey. The good news is there are many high quality non-toxic couch options on the market to suit a variety of styles and budgets.
No matter what kind of couch you buy, let it air out for a few days before putting it inside your home to help air it out and reduce the VOCs and toxic products that end up in your home.
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